Marriage–A Renewable Resource?
Allow me to begin with a reminder that these blogs are written with the purpose of opening discourse, an encouragement to consider a fresh perspective. They are not research pieces, nor are they ever presented as “The Answer.” Most often ideas spring from discussions I have with clients–especially issues I hear repeatedly.
Roughly half of the couples I see for marital therapy report that their marriage has grown stale. The vitality they once enjoyed in their relationship is gone.
“We never thought we’d be here. Never.”
“We miss us. We miss what we used to have.”
“We are not having fun anymore.”
“We have become roommates.”
Typically, they are mentally and emotionally drained. Burned out by responsibilities of their respective careers, kids’ schedules, and keeping up with a home. They once shared the joy of a deep connection; now they share a sense of living tired, overwhelmed, and hopeless. Unhappy, they blame each other and the marriage, resulting in hurt and frustration.
I praise couples for their bravery and willingness to be vulnerable, seeking to improve their marriage before they reach a crisis situation. They’re in the “We’re-okay-but-we-know-it-can-be-much-better,” category.
I always ask clients what they want to hire me to do. Often partners hire me to guide them as they rediscover the fun and enjoyment they once found in their marriage.
The process begins with the following steps:
- Acknowledge that the marriage needs attention.
- Sharing and respectfully listening to each others’ perspective on how “we got here.”
- Review what initially attracted them to one another.
- Commit to change from the current routine.
- Examine leisure time–entertainment.
Many couples spend little, or no, time together–alone. They are either with the kids, friends, or family. They cannot recall the last time they did something fun, just as a couple.
I question, “Suppose your marriage was a resource, what are you doing to renew it? Sustain it?” Marriage may be viewed as a renewable resource, but not one that replenishes naturally. We are not solar powered. The wonderful passion and vitality of a relationship may be consumed to the point of depletion if we do not recharge regularly. We must engage in relationship resource management. Healthy marriages are sustained by a commitment of both time and energy. Happy marriages are treated as a priority.
Stepping into a therapist’s office, openly admitting that your marriage is not the source of joy that it once was is difficult. Sadly, for some, awkward and embarrassing. But for many, it is the first step in renewing a highly valuable resource.
From We’re No Fun Anymore by Schwarz and Braff, “It is not that couples are not playing and having fun because they are angry and resentful; they are angry and resentful because they are not playing and having fun together” (xiv).